Chief Learning Officer Wills, John
John Wills, the director of London Business School’s Accelerated Development Program, says executive development is about helping people succeed by providing them with the right skills at the right time. The challenge is to identify employees’ strengths and develop their talent areas, aligning these with business goals and objectives. There are many approaches to recognizing and developing leadership talent within organizations, including assessment centers, competency and behavioral frameworks, personality assessments and 360-degree feedback. These approaches are often combined with executive coaching and detailed personal development plans that include intensive leadership and general management training. Organizations are finding that executive development works best when it is aligned with the long-term goals of the business, is fully supported by senior management, and is linked with an individual’s development and career goals. According to a 2009 survey by Management Issues, 75 percent of first-time managers struggle to be effective in their new positions, and even experienced managers must be re-skilled at various points in their career as they transition to more senior roles. This year, London Business School released data focused on executive development that examined more than 2,000 participants. The data indicated managers often excel in the following areas: demonstrating technical competency, meeting deadlines, analyzing problems, demonstrating self-confidence, gathering information, and encouraging new ideas and innovation. The data also showed that managers were lacking some qualities seen as important in a senior role, including monitoring and reviewing people’s work regularly, explaining to team members the goals of the business and basis for success, dealing effectively with poor performers, thinking strategically and identifying alternatives to ensure flexibility, using a variety of methods — including influence, persuasion and networks — to gain support for ideas or strategies, and understanding the opinions and feelings of others. The survey data suggests linking executive development to talent management may be the best way to impart to managers the skills needed for more senior roles. This can be achieved through implementing learning solutions that help mangers bridge skill gaps and transition into their new roles. To make the learning easier, the process can be broken down into two steps: first, see the providers as partners in learning and talent management; and second, recognize and aim for continuous learning versus event-based learning.
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Executive development must be a continuous learning strategy.